Before going to Russia last weekend, I had been doing some WordPress research and had come across two posts by Polly and Katya, both with excellent things to say about an outdoor market in East Moscow. On my last day, we decided to make our way over to the Izmailovo district, where the market of the same name is open pretty much all week, with the best vendors setting up shop on Saturdays and Sundays. Apparently the area is where the Romanov family used to hail from – more recently (well, 3 decades ago), the Izmailovo Hotel was built for visitors and dignitaries attending the 1980 Olympic Summer Games.
Markets are a big thing in London, but I’ve yet to see anything quite like the open air complex that is Izmailovo market. Following the signs (not to the Vodka History Museum – maybe one for next time), we first encountered what our driver told us was a ‘joke’ Kremlin. It opened a few years ago and is used as a wedding complex (one can just imagine the traffic this brings the vodka museum, har har).
Entry to the actual market was a few rubles, and we were immediately greeted with rows and rows of every Russian souvenir imaginable: matryoshka dolls in every theme, shining Faberge eggs, old Soviet memorabilia, stalls of beautiful fur, busts of Lenin, artwork laid out in the snow…you could wander around for hours. I limited myself to buying two Faberge eggs with mini Kremlins inside them. We negotiated the price down to 800 rubles (£17) each, but I have to be honest and tell you I have no idea if that was a decent price or not (as they were my only souvenirs I wasn’t too fussed, but I’m sure for the determined haggler there are PLENTY of opportunities to save some change!)
A few other experiences of note…
The GUM (pronounced goom) department store off Red Square looks like Harrods by night, with sparkling lights draped all down the sides. It also feels like Harrods by day, and by that I mean there is nothing inside that the value-seeking shopper would touch (but it is a very beautiful mall, and interesting to see how far the Western influence has crept). It was PANCAKE WEEK in Moscow (what a delicious coincidence), so we had some blinis and tea for lunch inside at Кофемании (or, less glamorously, Coffeemania, the chain. Overpriced but super tasty!)
Back outside, we passed by the Bolshoi Theatre, home of the Russian ballet and opera, and recently renovated for a whopping 1 billion dollars. I wanted desperately to go, but we weren’t quick enough on the ticket uptake (will book VERY much in advance when I visit next!) Next door is the GUM’s equally snazzy cousin, the TSUM (pronounced tsoom).
Finally, we made our way to the Moscow State Circus. Last year, we went to see Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and everyone was dressed to the nines, sipping cocktails in the theatre lounges during intermission. This was not like that. It was a PROPER circus, with kids running around, cotton candy everywhere, hilarious clowns, and dancing elephants (I had expected dancing bears, but they were on holiday). It was lots of fun and made for an excellent afternoon out, though stern ushers waiting in the wings meant any picture-taken had to be done on the sly.
And that’s pretty much it for last week’s trip – thanks for reading! I think I’ll try to visit Moscow again this year, probablyyy in the summer when it’s a tad warmer :p Back to London adventures for the time being…